Each year, millions of Americans suffer from hip pain. This is especially true as people advance in age. In fact, one study estimates that nearly 20% of people aged 65 or older suffer from some degree of hip pain.
For patients dealing with worsening hip pain in one or both hips, hip replacement surgery can be an amazing cure to their pain. A hip replacement is a procedure that involves a surgeon removing damaged sections of bone and replacing them with an artificial “ball and socket” hip implant. Most surgeons consider it the most successful replacement surgery that we do because it often leads to a complete and full recovery.
Traditionally, hip replacement procedures have required large incisions for surgery, requiring more damage to the soft tissues, muscles and tendons around the hip. The older surgeries created a period of instability for the joint that lasted weeks, during which patients had restrictions to certain movements. These movements carried the risk of popping the hip ball out of the socket, called a dislocation, and could require further surgery to relocate the hip. The surgery was extremely painful and required several days in the hospital, and often, a very difficult recovery period.
Today, due to advancements in orthopedic surgery, surgeons can now take a minimally invasive approach that enables an outpatient procedure and limited disruption of surrounding muscles and tendons.
Even still, the decision to undergo any form of surgery is still an important one that should be made on a confident and informed basis. To help you decide if hip replacement is right for you, we’re happy to share the following guide. Understanding the major signs can allow you to be more engaged with your treatment and work more closely with medical professionals to make a decision that is right for you.
1. You Are Suffering From Chronic Hip Pain
Chronic hip pain is described as pain that persists for a period of time, typically three months or longer. Many hip injuries, such as a muscle strain or ligament sprain, can improve and heal with time. Chronic hip pain is usually caused by degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, or can occur due to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Often, patients will not be referred to a surgeon unless hip pain has lasted for months and is having a serious impact on your quality of life. Most often hip[ pain begins in the groin area and can be misunderstood as a groin muscle pull or hernia.
2. You Can’t Do the Things You Used to Do
In many cases, hip pain can be successfully managed without the need for surgery. However, severe hip pain that causes joint damage can seriously inhibit range of motion and make it hard to perform basic activities without pain. For people who are used to a high activity level, this can be extremely frustrating.
For patients who are dealing with the most severe cases of hip pain, even performing the most basic tasks can become difficult or even impossible. People who can no longer work in the yard, prepare a meal or shop at the store will often begin to wonder if hip replacement surgery and an artificial hip may be able to help them regain function and activity levels. Patients complaints include difficulty washing your feet or lower legs, putting on shoes or socks, and getting in and out of a vehicle..
3. Your Relationships Are Being Affected
One aspect of chronic hip pain that is not heavily discussed enough is how isolating it can be. Grandparents with hip pain often describe being unable to spend time with their grandkids, while others report drifting away from friends who are still able to maintain an active lifestyle.
For some, this isolation can become a vicious cycle that can negatively affect mental health and potentially make pain worse. Healthy relationships are an important part of long-term pain management and surgery can become a viable option for people dealing with pain and mobility problems that are affecting those relationships.
4. Your sleep is Being Disrupted
We need a good night’s sleep to function properly. As mentioned above, chronic pain and mental health are closely linked, and another factor that can negatively affect our mental health is disrupted sleep. Unfortunately, hip pain sufferers very often have to deal with symptoms at night that make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If hip pain is disrupting your ability to get a good night’s sleep, it can make it that much more difficult to manage pain in the morning. This is another way that chronic joint pain can lead to an overall decline in your quality of life. Improved function and reduced pain after recovering from a hip replacement offers the opportunity for improved sleep.
5. Conservative Treatments Have Not Been Effective
Like other types of surgery, hip replacement should only be explored after a full course of conservative treatment has been explored without offering the relief needed for an improved quality of life. Doctors and specialists often recommend the following nonsurgical treatments to help relieve pain and improve mobility in the hip:
- Over-the-counter medication, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy, to help develop strength and stability in the hip joint, while increasing flexibility
- Alternating hot and cold compression, to relax tense muscles, improve circulation, numb the area and reduce inflammation
- Steroid injections to relieve pain and reduce inflammation for an intermediate period of time
It’s important to fully commit to conservative treatment and give them the time they need to be effective. However, conditions such as arthritis are often progressive in nature, causing increased joint damage that nonsurgical therapies are not able to overcome.
6. Hip Pain Persists After Making Lifestyle Changes and Modifying Activities
While no one can turn back the clock on the natural aging process, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can increase stress on the hips and worsen hip pain. If a doctor recommends starting a weight management program, getting regular exercise with less impact, and eating a healthy diet to promote hip health and potentially improve pain, it’s important to follow this medical advice.
Our body is a highly interconnected system, and many patients are surprised to find that reducing the weight we place on the hips, improving cardiovascular health and eating healthier foods can all work together to offer significant relief.
However, if these lifestyle changes have been attempted and pain does not improve, or pain is preventing you from fully committing to these changes, a hip replacement can offer the best path to lasting pain relief.
7. A Physician Has Diagnosed You With an Operable Condition
An artificial hip is only recommended for cases where the hip joint itself has been seriously damaged by age-related conditions like osteoarthritis, or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, injuries such as fractures can result in situations where the hip joint becomes damaged over time as well.
Many patients have pain in the hip area that is actually coming from outside the joint itself, such as bursitis or pain in the lower spine.
8. You Have Undergone a thorough Evaluation
Another important consideration for hip replacements is whether or not a patient is a suitable candidate to undergo surgery. General health conditions need to be medically stable, such as diabetic sugar control, high blood pressure, etc…
To determine if a patient is a candidate for minimally invasive hip replacement, surgeons will perform a thorough evaluation that involves review of medical history, diagnostic testing, discussion of symptoms and an overview of the recommended procedure.
If a patient is determined to be a good candidate for hip replacement surgery, he or she can then learn about the pre- and postoperative steps needed to ensure a successful procedure and recovery period.
Reach Out to the Experts at OJRCA to Further Explore Hip Replacement Options
If hip pain related to degenerative joint conditions such as arthritis are disrupting your quality of life and you’ve exhausted conservative treatment options it may be time to explore a hip replacement. At Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA), we’re passionate about helping people in pain return to a healthy and active lifestyle. Please reach out online today to schedule an appointment at our Tampa, FL, clinic or call us any time.